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The Complete Poems

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  14,685 ratings  ·  367 reviews

From the joy and anguish of her own experience, Sexton fashioned poems that told truths about the inner lives of men and women. This book comprises Sexton's ten volumes of verse, including the Pulitzer Prize-winner Live or Die, as well as seven poems from her last years.

Paperback, 656 pages
Published April 28th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published September 30th 1981)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  14,685 ratings  ·  367 reviews

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Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, poetry, recs
From the self-conscious and contemplative poems of To Bedlam and Part Way Back to the strange and surreal verse of The Awful Rowing Toward God, Anne Sexton's work encompasses a wide range of styles: few other American poets have written so many kinds of poems, on such different subjects, while successfully capturing the attention of the public. Often interested in personal relationships, as well as the bond between poet and audience, Sexton's poems consistently dazzle readers with inventive imag ...more
Steven Godin
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960) - 4/5
All My Pretty Ones (1962) - 5/5
Live or Die (1966) - 4/5
Love Poems (1969) - 5/5
Transformations (1971) - 3/5
The Book of Folly (1972) - 5/5
The Death Notebooks (1974) - 5/5
The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975) - 5/5

45 Mercy Street (1976) - 5/5
Words for Dr. Y (1978) - 4/5

Other Poems (1971-1973) - 5/5
Scorpio, Bad Spider, Die (1971) - 5/5
Last Poems - 4/5

All Anne Sexton's major work in one place, plus previously unreleased material to co
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
"strings are incurably playing...the composer has stepped into fire."

I devoured The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, whose poetry, especially her love poems, quivers with a pulsating eros as it sways to its orgiastic echoes.

My nerves are turned on. I hear them like
musical instruments. Where there was silence
the drums, the strings are incurably playing. You did this.
Pure genius at work. Darling, the composer has stepped
into fire.

From "The Kiss."

Hers was a tragic life, throughout most of which she
Jun 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Sexton is a bit of an obsession of mine--I've been reading her poetry since I was a teenager, and *almost* wrote my dissertation on her! She's often compared to Sylvia Plath (who was her friend), but her poetry is very different. Where Plath is something of an intellectual poet and a meticulous craftsman, Sexton is more dramatic and playful; she doesn't have the same control of language as Plath, but she is a little more accessible. Plath was an introvert, but Sexton loved to perform for an audi ...more
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"Loneliness is just an exile from God."
-Anne Sexton, April 1,1963

Writing poems, for me, is simply a way to express what cannot be expressed any other way. This is also how Anne was as a Confessional poet and as someone who began writing in therapy, her poems were an extension of her psychoanalysis but she went much further: she became an artist. So much of her work is the process, the process, the process- of throwing clay to make a jar.

these are my favorites -
Her Kind
The Farmer's Wife
Unknown Gi
Feb 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm in this workshop and I have this poem and Kathleen Fraser says that if I don't take every pronoun out of my poem I run the risk of seeming confessional which is "at the worst, Anne Sexton, and at the best, Sylvia Plath." I felt stomped on. Not because she was right about my poem, but because I became aware that everyone could see me doing it, reading the complete Sexton, cover to cover one spring in college. I can see me beside the pool reading it and I'm thinking fuck you Kathleen, because ...more
Momina Masood
Aug 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, american-lit
"Someone once said that we have art in order not to die of the truth, a dictum we might neatly apply to Sexton's perspectives. To Hayden Carruth, the poems "raise the never-solved problem of what literature really is, where you draw the line between art and documentary." -- Maxine Kumin in her Foreword

Sexton's poetry transcends the shamelessly personal because, unlike Plath, she did not disguise herself behind metaphors; not in the least as cerebrally as Plath, anyway. And in doing so, she rend
Disclaimer: ARC via Open Road Media and Netgalley

I was first introduced to Anne Sexton in college during an American Poetry class. Actually, I was introduced to Sexton’s poetry because by that time she was long dead. Shortly afterwards, I read her Transformations which will always be one of my favorite books. In her poetic retellings of various Brother Grimm stories, from the most famous to less well known, Sexton shows how fairy tales are still current and powerful, and still can be connected
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What can I say about Anne Sexton? She's incomparable--perhaps wholly unique in the history of women's poetry. I'd like to review each of her books separately at some point, which is why I've kept this on my shelf for so long, even though I finished rereading the entire brick in March. As so many comment, the poetry is sometimes hit or miss--particularly in her last two or three collections. But far more often (which critics conveniently forget), she's absolutely on, absolutely raw, absolutely a ...more
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
On the whole, Anne Sexton stands as one of the few confessional poets whose constant symbolic callbacks and reincorporation can be endearing and in fact, make her more fit to be read again and gain. These brilliant and disquieting images she tears from time spent alone, tortured by the alienation of life passing everything by, are brought back again in her poems. Occasionally something is touched on briefly only to be mentioned in certain devastating verses later in her collections, revealing mo ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetshere
Only my books anoint me,
and a few friends,
those who reach into my veins.

This proved to be a psychologically crushing endeavor. Good Housekeeping ravaged by psychosis and incestual violence. There's so much pain and damaged mechanisms. Everything is filtered through fear and upheaval, all coping is suicidal.

Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

The uneasy element in this exchange is the crucial role that parenting plays in her tableaux. More unc
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have not read much poetry in the 15 years I have been alive. I have read the poems that are required, expected, to be read in school, but that is pretty much where it ends.
There are certain poets whose names I have seen and automatically wanted to read. Anne Sexton is one of them. Maybe it was the ‘sex’ in her last name that grabbed my attention. I am a teenage boy and all.
Maybe it's the picture of her on the cover of her Collected Poems, though I bought her Selected Poems first. I gave that a
Melissa Riker
Mar 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loveitalways
Is there a match in the world to For my lover returning to his wife? I don't think so....
and then To my Little girl, My Stringbean
The motherly advice that "Dear Linda, Women are born twice"
Her words are perfect in so many ways.

There are poems that go too far for my to enjoy them - I like some darkness in life, but I've been through my melodramatic stage I don't need it quite as much....

that aside - read Transformations in its entirety - the reveal it gives to fairytales is a fabulou
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've carried this book around for a long time now and I think I'll continue to do so. ...more
M.L. Rio
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Sometimes brilliant, sometime baffling, frequently both.
Infada Spain
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, 2019-5stars
totally alluring...
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Beautiful, strong, and sad. These are not poems for the faint of heart. I appreciated reading her complete works, as this volume provided a fuller picture of the artist and her transformation over time. The anger and the darkness grow as the years pass, but Sexton never loses her focus and her courage.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Favorite collections:
Love Poems
The Death Notebook
The Awful Rowing Toward God

Favorite poem:
Wanting To Die

"Suicides have already betrayed the body."

"my death from the wrists,
two name tags,
blood worn like a corsage
to bloom"

"All day I've built
a lifetime and now
the sun sinks to
undo it"

"To die whole
riddled with nothing
but desire for it,
is like breakfast
after love."
Dec 04, 2017 added it
Shelves: poetry
I had read a little of Anne Sexton over the years, not much, but I had remembered rather liking what I'd read. The Sylvia Plath comparisons are often made, but I like Sexton's accounts of depression and bloodied tampons quite a bit more -- I never got over Plath's melodrama, nor her studied misery. With Sexton, I feel like I'm getting the real thing, the 1950s mad housewife of legend as seen in the wild. Start with "Wanting to Die" - it's a classic for a reason after all, then work your way thro ...more
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about poetry. I want to love it, but it is rare that I come across a poem or poet that I really enjoy. I want a poem to speak to me on a personal level; that is what a good poem is supposed to do. Admittedly, I am not the sort of reader that takes pleasure in dissecting or analyzing a piece. For me, a great deal of poetry is like a moody acquaintance that could be fascinating if he wasn't so difficult to like.

The first poem by Anne Sexton that I read was "Her Kind" and jus
E. G.
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
A Note on the Text, by Linda Gray Sexton
How It Was: Maxine Kumin on Anne Sexton

--To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960)

--All My Pretty Ones (1962)

--Live or Die (1966)

--Love Poems (1969)

--Transformations (1971)

--The Book of Folly (1972)

--The Death Notebooks (1974)

--The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975)

Posthumously Published Work

Editor's Note
--Mercy Street (1976)

Editor's Note
--Words for Dr. Y. (1978)

Last Poems
--Admonitions to a Special Person
--In Excelsis
--As It Was Written
--Lessons in Hunger
Nov 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Men and Women
I originally gave this four stars because Anne Sexton is far from perfect and there are poems of hers (esp. Transformations) that I don't like that much but then again, when she's on, it's pretty much as close as I'm ever going to come to smoking crack. Really, I love how she can pile on the similes as if they were college students piling into a phone booth. ...more
mwpm mwpm
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, omnibus
The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton brings together the eight books published in Sexton's lifetime ( To Bedlam and Part Way Back , All My Pretty Ones , Live or Die , Love Poems , Transformations , The Book of Folly , The Death Notebooks , The Awful Rowing Toward God ), and the two books published posthumously ( 45 Mercy Street , Words for Dr. Y: Uncollected Poems with Three Stories )...

From To Bedlam and Part Way Back ...

I am thirty this November.
You are still small,
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
oof... This collection took me much longer to finish than I originally imagined. Anne Sexton writes beautiful poems about some of the heaviest topics. Trying to pick favorite out of 600 pages seems silly but the two that really brought tears to my eyes were The Kiss and the poem dedicated to Sylvia Plath after her death.
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always been drawn to confessional poetry, so inevitably one of the first poets I came across when I started researching this genre was Anne Sexton. I was immediately addicted. Anne Sexton was a brilliant poet with a brutally honest voice and I was hooked. The first book I bought of hers is proof of this -every other page is dog-eared and about 90% of it is highlighted. I am still fascinated by her poetry and how she never shied away from any topic. Her life, heartbreaking and tumultuous is ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Anne Sexton is one of my favorite poets. Confessional poets have always appealed to me with their raw honesty and intensity.
Cherise Wolas
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've been reading Anne Sexton's poems for months now. For those who don't like poetry, her work could change your mind. ...more
Matthew Wilder
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Anne Sexton belongs on that shelf marked FOR THE LAYMAN. Like Allen Ginsberg and Kurt Vonnegut, she is one of those writers you don’t have to know much about writing to understand; and like them she is an avatar of literature as resource for expressing lived wisdom. For one who is relentlessly—awful contemporary word...CONFESSIONAL...the thing that separates Anne out from her 2019, Millennial, auto-fictiony cohort is that Anne keeps everything vivid, crackly, almost operatically intense. After T ...more
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton is now available in ebook from Open Road Integrated Media. The book includes the complete poems and posthumously published work. It is a substantial volume of work. Sexton plumbed her own life as a woman, mother, daughter, wife and lover, addressed her struggle with depression, institutionalization, and suicide attempts.

The Publisher's Note explains how the poems were adapted to the ebook form. And How It Was: Maxine Kumin on Anne Sexton, a revealing essay abou
Lolly K Dandeneau
Her poetry isn't always dark, it has its childlike fairy tale moments- what is it about those tormented that we love to read? Honestly, it's the similar feelings and hungers we all have moment to moment. She was open and had no reservation about letting readers in. Her poems were about so many different things from death, to love and sex. They are timeless and meaningful and reading them induce the weirdest dreams I have had, admittedly I can say the same when I read Plath or Anais Nin's diaries ...more
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Anne Sexton once told a journalist that her fans thought she got better, but actually, she just became a poet. These words are characteristic of a talented poet that received therapy for years, but committed suicide in spite of this. The poetry fed her art, but it also imprisoned her in a way.

Her parents didn’t expect much of her academically, and after completing her schooling at Rogers Hall, sh

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